William Phillis was born in 1821 at Eastry, Kent, England, son of James and Susanna (nee Chapman). He arrived in South Australia with his parents and siblings on ship Duchess of Northumberland on 21st December 1839 at Port Misery. He came with an Assisted Passage (Application 5303, Embarkation 3238) travelling as an adult.
William joined his father and eldest brothers in preparing their new Mount Pleasant farmland in 1842 and 1843.
He married Harriet Cox on 22nd January 1842 and moved to the Mount Pleasant district with his father sometime in 1843. They established Ham Farm on the main road between Mount Pleasant and Springton, with the source of the River Torrens on their property. William became a leading farmer in the area with his breeding of horses and livestock. People brought their mares for service by the Phillis stallions, one of the principal ones being Pride of Australia. He hosted ploughing matches, a forerunner to the Show, offering his land for the competitions, and joined the Mount Pleasant Show Society.
He also had an interest in breeding horses, and offered the services of Prince and Pride of Australia, in 1856, near the Mount Pleasant Inn, and later, in 1858 and 1859, at Ham Farm, also offering agistment for mares at £2 6s per week.
In 1862 the services of Duke of Argyle were being offered, with the service at various locations throughout the district, including Tungkillo. In 1865 Prince Charley was being offered as far afield as Blumberg, with stopovers at properties near Springton and Tungkillo. During 1875 William had created a journey…
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900) Tuesday 31 August 1875 p 1 Advertising
SIR WALTER SCOTT will Travel for the season as follows— Start on Monday, 30th August, 1875, to Blumberg, staying at Mr. Cook’s, late Skupine’s, for two hours, staying for the night at Mr. P. Hyne’s; leaving on Tuesday, calling at Tungkillo on his way home; staying at home on Wednesday; leaving home on Thursday, going through Springton to Eden Valley, and staying for the night; leaving on Friday, calling at Mr. P. Miller’s, and home on Saturday; and repeating the same rounds every week, accidents, illness, and Sunday excepted, until the end of November, 1875.
He and Harriet had 11 children, and just two months after the birth of the last child in 1867, a son, Richard, Harriet died. She is buried in the St John Church of England Cemetery.
William remarried in 1868 to his cousin Susannah Elizabeth Sherrif (nee Phillis), daughter of William and Sarah nee Munday, and widow of William Sherrif. William and Susannah Sherrif had come to Australia with James Phillis in 1855, arriving in Melbourne, then travelling on ship Havilah to Adelaide.
William and Susannah Phillis had two children who inherited Ham Farm which they sold. Falling into ruins the fine Ham Farm homestead became the favoured haunt of travelling swagmen. Many of William’s descendants have made their name in sporting circles, including the well-known Phillises of league football fame.
William Phillis died in 1889.
Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912), Saturday 16 March 1889, page 4
THE LATE MR. WILLIAM PHILLIS.—Our Mount Pleasant correspondent writes on March 14 :—” This district has to-day lost by death one of its oldest pioneers, Mr. William Phillis, of Ham Farm. The deceased gentleman had been for some years suffering from heart disease, and lingered on in great pain until 1 o’clock to-day. He was a colonist of over 49 years, having arrived in the ship Duchess of Northumberland; landing at Holdfast Bay on December 21, 1839. Amongst the passengers were the Hon. J. Colton and Mr. A. Tennant, On the day of landing, which was very rough and boisterous, he assisted in carrying the women and children ashore from the boats into bullock teams waiting to take passengers up to West-terrace. He, shortly after arrival, went to live at the old Port. In 1843 he removed to the well-known Ham Farm. Mr. Phillis will be greatly missed, having been one of the originators of our public Societies and coursing clubs, being in this as in everything he took in hand an energetic worker. He leaves a widow, seven sons, five daughters, living, forty-seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Wide-felt sympathy is felt for the family in their bereavement. His father, Mr. James Phillis, of Updown Park, whose property nearly joins his son’s is between ninety and one hundred years of age, is hale and hearty and was able to visit his son in his last illness. The deceased gentleman died at—for his family noted for their longevity—the early age of sixty-eight years.
Susannah died in 1914 at Ariah Park, New South Wales.